Group Research Lab

Collaboration and Scholarship: Research in Action

Eight members of the Mental Health and Psychological Well-being SIG have launched a collaborative research project. Members are conducting a metaethnography of qualitative literature regarding the stigma of mental illness.  As a collective of researchers motivated to examine the socio-cultural construction of stigma against mental illness, we are using meta-ethnography to advance our scholarship through the study of qualitative research conducted about stigma in our individual areas of interest regarding the topic. Meta-ethnography is an interpretive research method based on the work of Noblit and Hare (1988):

A meta-ethnography should be interpretive rather than aggregative. We make the case that is should take the form of reciprocal translations of studies into one another. The need for this type of discourse is based on a concrete example of a synthesis attempt that failed. The example itself reveals why this type of discourse is needed. As argued elsewhere (Noblit, 1984), utilitarian culture places unique demands on qualitative research to be practical: Witness the growth of qualitative evaluation research. Since research and evaluation funding are tied to improvement of practice, it is especially important that interpretivists discuss how they construct explanations, how interpretive explanations are different from other ways of constructing explanations, and what can reasonably be said about some sets of studies. Despite our utilitarian culture, a meta-ethnography cannot be driven by technical interests (Habermas, 1971). Instead, meta-ethnography must be driven by the desire to construct adequate interpretive explanations. p. 11

Seven Phases of Meta-ethnography

1. Identifying Intellectual Interest

"In this phase, the investigator is asking, How can I inform my intellectual interest by examining some set of studies? In part, this phase is finding something that is worthy of the synthesis effort" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 27).

2. Deciding What is Relevant

"Deciding what studies or accounts are relevant involves knowing who the audience for the synthesis is, what is credible and interesting to them, what accounts are available to address the audiences' interests, and what your interests are in the effort" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 27).

3. Reading the Studies

"In meta-ethnography, this phase is not so clear. Rather, we think it is best to identify this phase as the repeated reading of the accounts and the noting of interpretative metaphors. Meta-ethnography is the synthesis of texts; this requires extensive attention to the details in the accounts, and what they tell you about your substantive concerns" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 28).

4. Determining How the Studies are Related 

"...determining the relationships between studies to be synthesized. We think it makes sense to create a list of the key metaphors, phrases, ideas, and/or concepts (and their relations) used in each account and to juxtapose them. Near the end of phase 4, an initial assumption about the relationship between studies can be made" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 28)

5. Translating the Studies Into One Another

"In its simplest form, translation involves treating teh accounts as analogies: One program is like another...On the other hand, tranlation is more involved than an analogy. Translations are especially unique syntheses, because they protect the particular, respect holism, and enable comparison. An adequate translation maintains the central metaphors or concepts in that account. It also compares both the metaphors or concepts and their interactions in one account with the metaphors or concepts and their interactions in the other accounts" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 28).

6. Synthesizing Translations

"Synthesis refers to making a whole into something more than the parts alone imply. The translations as a set are one level of meta-ethnographiec synthesis" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 28).

7. Expressing the Synthesis

"To be effectively communicated, the synthesis must not only be in appropriate form but must also use intelligible concepts" (Noblit & Hare, 1988, p. 29).

Meta Team Members

Robyn Flint, Todd Hastings, Joann Kovacich, Barbara Kennedy, Margaret Kroposki, Walker Ladd, Emily Moye, Louise Underdahl


Reference: Noblit, G. W. & Hare, R. D. (1988). Qualitative Research Methods: Meta-ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412985000.

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